All in a name


It was dark in the garden. It was dark in her heart. She had known plenty darkness before. The cold, eclipse of rejection. The pitch black of shame. The midnight of self hatred. But none like this. This was worse than all of those combined. Hope had been hammered out of her with the nails that they had roughly banged into his already broken, feet and hands. Even now, she didn’t know how she had stood there, and watched them do that to Him, except that she couldn’t tear herself away. The excruciating anguish of seeing his agony, and being helpless to do anything to help him, had torn her apart. That was Friday. A blur of pain and fire. Saturday she had been mute with grief, unable to think, or take anything else in. This morning she had forced her exhausted body to move. There was one more thing she could do for him.

This time, no one would see her, and criticize. No mocking words or sneers. She would pour her love  out for him for the last time. She would tenderly anoint his beloved, broken body with precious perfumed oils. This time, however, he would not smile at her. His scarred face would be still. His extraordinary eyes would be dull and closed forever.

She didn’t know how she was going to get past the guards, hadn’t a clue how she would move the stone with which they they had sealed his tomb. Nothing would stop her though. If it was the last thing she did, she would say her goodbye, and prepare his body properly for burial. That was the least she could do. What more had she got to lose?

Finding her way to the place she had seen his body hastily dumped, before the onset of the Sabbath, she was stopped in her tracks. They had taken even this last goodbye. Guards gone, the tomb gaping in yawning emptiness. They couldn’t even leave his body to rest in peace. Anger and confusion spurred her feet as she ran back to tell Peter and John of this final desecration. They ran too, looked and left. Unable to deal with themselves, unable to deal with her. She was left, and like at the foot of his cross, she couldn’t tear herself away, even though there was nothing to stay for. Nothing to live for. The tears flowed, as she wept for all that might have been. She had never known love and acceptance as this Man had showed her. Never experienced forgiveness and heartbreaking mercy that lifted her out of the dust, and breathed new life into her beaten down soul. She had watched him do it for so many others too, but now all that was gone.

The tomb was empty. The beloved body stolen, who knows where. She shuddered to think what they might have done with him. As if they hadn’t done enough. She looked again into the hollowed out space in the rock, wondering if she might at least gather his grave clothes. There were two men sitting in there, where his head and feet would have been. She couldn’t take in who they might be or why they were there. They asked her a stupid question.

Why are you crying?

WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO AT A GRAVE?!” she wanted to shout at them- “ isn’t it obvious?!”  “They have taken him away, and I have lost- everything”  She turned away – unable and unwilling to engage. Lost in her loss.

The sun was just rising, lifting over the city and bathing her in light. The light hurt almost more than the darkness. Another day. Another day he would never see. She folded in on herself.

There was a sound close by. A footstep. Suddenly concious of another person , who as she looked up, was standing in the brightness of the dawn. She could only see his outline, framed with light, and blurry with her tears.

Why are you weeping?”  the same question.

Gently and compassionately asked with a voice that sounded as if it cared about the answer.

Who are you looking for?” 

He could only be the gardener, but the question  reached right into her being. Right into the depths of her pain. Somewhere deep inside, in the darkness, there was the faintest glimmer of light.

If you know where he is, if you have moved him- tell me”  she pleaded. There was just a whisper of a chance she would find his body, after all.

He didn’t answer and she still couldn’t see his face, or read his expression. Silence. A pause in which the world turned, and her heart lifted towards hope, against herself.

Mary” 

No one else said it like that. No one else had ever put such unconditional love into the simple saying of her name. That beloved voice called her a second time out of a nightmare     of darkness, bringing her back to life.  It couldn’t possibly be – and yet it was. She had been looking for a corpse, and she had found a living Lord, who knew her, and called her by name.

Rabbouni!”   was all she had breath to say. She fell at his feet. The feet she had anointed with her tears; the feet she had seen hammered to the rough wood of the cross. Reaching out to hold them – she wanted to stay in this moment forever. Be sure it was real. That he was real. That her teetering mind hadn’t tipped finally, over the edge.

Gentle hands lifted her up. His smile was as wide as the sea, and the eyes she thought had closed for ever, twinkled with life and laughter. A name, a smile. A smile that reached out and found all the shattered pieces of her heart, and drew them together again, into a new whole.

Now go– and tell my brothers who you have seen”  he asked of her. Be the one to tell them I am alive. Be the Hope Bearer. Turn their lives upside down, as yours has been.

She didn’t hesitate. Carrying the good news- she ran with joy, in the glory of the rising sun, that was lighting up the world.

Come to the Quiet

An invitation to the Quiet. At the end of a busy weekend,  and at the start to the season of Lent, it is an invitation that draws me.  The need to quieten our souls  in God’s gentle Presence is an ever present one.

I have had this in the ‘drafts’ category all weekend,  looking for a link to the music that inspired the following poem.  The poem was written half a life time ago, but is one that seems to re- surface from time to time.

Come to the Quiet

A proffered hand

outstretched in plea of love

a silent empathy of prayer.

I can see

the child inside

that hides behind the man.

Fear stalks behind a laugh

and pain beyond a smile,

for in some deeper place

the child cries

and cries alone.

The bright facade

shown to the world

boasts confidence and strength-

but where I stand, beside your heart,

I cannot see your mask

I only feel your pain.

Speaking at length, in cheerful note

I could not hear your words,

your spirit’s orison of tears

touched a silent place within

and brought my own soul to my knees.

Hush then, and let the silence speak

His balm of Peace awaits us here.

If you will – then take my hand

and let us come

come to the Quiet.

The song ‘Come to the Quiet‘ is by John Michael Talbot, a Franciscan monk, and is based on Psalm 131.  I will add or make a link in the next day or two.

Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

1 LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.

Creator God, you are there

In the deepest, darkness of night, and in the faintest glimmers of dawn, where Hope starts to shine, Creator God you are there.

I sang this lovely song, along with the college choir, at our Community Eucharist the other evening. We used it as an anthem, picking up the creation/re-creation theme in this weeks lectionary readings. (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Psalm 136, Romans 8: 18-25, Matthew 6:25-end.)

The words have  stayed with me. In both the beauty, and the pain- Creator God you are there, in the midst of us. In a week which has seen so much pain and heartache across the world, in New Zealand and Libya, particularly, they seemed to speak ( to me anyway) .

 

 

In the darkness of the still night

in the dawning of the daylight,

in the mystery of creation,

Creator God, you are there.

in the breath of every being,

in the birthing and the growing,

in the earth and all its fullness,

Creator God, you are there.

 

In the homeless and the hungry,

in the broken and the lonely,

in the grieving of your people,

Creator God, you are there.

in the tears and in the heartache,

in the Love through which we serve you,

in the anguish of the dying,

Creator God, you are there.

 

In our hearts and in our thinking,

in the longing and the dreaming,

in the yearning of our heartbeat,

Creator God, you are there.

In the love for one another,

in the sharing of our being

in receiving and forgiving,

Creator God, you are there.

 

In our joys, our hopes, our healing,

in awakening to revealing,

in your call and our responding,

Creator God, you are there.

In our prayer and in our service,

in our praise and in our worship,

in your love that is eternal,

Creator God, you are there.

 

The author of words and music, is Margaret Rizza, and you can listen to the song, by clicking on the link below:

 

 

 

 

Are we nearly there yet?

The long road

The only journey is the journey within

The opening sentence of a sermon I listened to this am, it struck a deep chord. Often the journey is tough going, and we wonder quite whether we will ever get there. It was a question I pondered with some feeling as I worked my less- than- willing body on the cross trainer. Watching the dial inch towards the set time of the exercise. Perseverance.   It is a good word. The dictionary defines it this way:

Continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure

Someone else described it as  “having the courage to ignore the obvious advice to turn back” , which made me smile.

I was in a pensive frame of mind this morning, and the name Cross Trainer also got me thinking.  The cross trainer I worked with today, is hard work.  It certainly takes perseverance to keep at it. It is doing me good, although it doesn’t often feel that way! Hopefully it is doing a bit of re- shaping too.

There is another kind of Cross Trainer I have been working with for some years now.   The Carpenter I follow, knew crosses from a whole different perspective, and He asks me, in following Him, to take up mine.  To persevere in this strange old journey of following Him, even when I don’t know where He is going- or perhaps especially when I do!

Perseverance has been a very key word of this more recent bit of the journey towards ordination.  Hopefully this Cross Trainer has been re- shaping me too.

The writer of the book of Romans, talked about perseverance producing character and character hope. Hope that does not disappoint.

I like the passage translated this way:

” There is more to come: we continue to shout our praise even when we are hemmed in by troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn, forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we are never left feeling short-changed. Quite the contrary- we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God so generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:3-5 Message

mmm… “passionate patience” … seems we can never have enough of that.